Mottoes – By Willa Ryan

A homeschooling friend of mine chooses some “mottoes” every year, which help inspire her and also help her evaluate her homeschooling during the year. The value of mottoes is that they are short and memorable, and can be pondered often .

St Ignatius seemed to value mottoes too, since many of his educational and spiritual principles can be encapsulated in the form of short phrases or mottoes. Here are some that have been meaningful to me throughout the years:

 

AMDG Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam: “To the greater glory of God”

 

This one is pivotal. Everything I do in my homeschool, or for that matter in my parenting and life, should be for God’s greater glory. Need I say that I don’t live up to this? But keeping it as my ideal, and measuring myself and my homeschool accordingly, gives me something to strive for. It helps me keep my priorities straight.

 

eloquentia perfecta: “perfect eloquence”

 

This was the goal of Ignatian education, subordinate of course to the one mentioned above. Ignatian education is meant above all to educate students to speak, act, and write well: not just proficiently, but virtuously. This helps remind me what my main academic goals – that how a student expresses himself is more important than what he knows.

While these two mottos express broad principles, the next ones are more to do with methods.

 

non multa, sed multum: not many things, but much.

 

In education, this can be paraphrased “Treat matter selected in depth; don’t try to cover every topic in a given field of inquiry”. There is a place for wide “exposure” level reading and learning, but the proper place is probably out-of-class leisure-time reading and hobbies. In their core studies, it is better to cover less material and make sure it is mastered. That’s why so much of Kolbe’s curriculum is built on a spiral, cycling through topics in successive years but building on the foundation laid earlier.

 

repetitio est mater studiorum: “repetition is the mother of learning”

 

In St Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises, after every few exercises, one is invited to reflect anew on previous exercises. It’s not drill, but reflecting on past learning from a new perspective. It could be compared to climbing part of a hill, and looking down to see where you were earlier. In my homeschool, I spend some of the last month of one school year, and the first part of the new one, compiling portfolios of the kids’ work. It is rewarding to see how they have improved and what they have accomplished in different areas.

 

divide et impera: “divide and conquer “

 

Part of understanding or dealing with anything, whether a new concept or a project or a long term goal, is breaking it into its parts. I use this whenever my children are stuck in a subject — by starting with something they can do, I can move from there onto the next step. Over time, all the little steps add up.

 

examen: “self-evaluation”

 

In the Spiritual Exercises, each exercise opens with a preparation designed to help prepare the retreatant for the meditation is to come. At the close of the daily exercise, the retreatant is to reflect on his success or lack of success in the exercise, and try to discern why he did well or poorly. This mental preparation and evaluation was very important as a “frame” for the actual exercises and to make the retreatant responsible for the effort he put into his exercises. A student could be asked to look at objectives previous to his studies and “examine” his work daily or by subject, evaluating how he met the objectives and what was his attitude while he was doing so. I haven’t tried this yet, but it’s in my plans for my high schoolers next year!

All these specific methods help meet the main goal expressed by “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” and help the homeschool run in a methodical, reflective way.